So, you’ve set up a gorgeous backyard pond aquascape only to discover that deer and other animals view the plant life like some sort of all-you-can-eat buffet. Putting up a fence will distract from the beauty of your aquascape, and you can’t exactly patrol your property with a shotgun all day.

The Japanese have solved this problem with the brilliantly simple shishi-odoshi. I’m sure you’ve seen one before – they are those bamboo water fountain things that spill over and make that “tunk” noise every so often. They operate on a very simple principle: by default, the bamboo tube has an unbalanced center of gravity so that the open end is always facing upward. Once it’s filled with water, the center of gravity changes and the shishi-odoshi spills over, kind of like one of those toy drinking birds.

Shishi-Odenshi Bamboo Fountain

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Many people just assume that the shishi-odoshi (also called “sozu” and “those Japanese bamboo water thingies”) is some sort of artistic statement, but it’s actually much more practical. It acts like a scarecrow – or a scaredeer, scareboar, or scare-anything. In fact, the name “shishi-odoshi” roughly translates into “scare the deer” in Japanese. That abrupt, periodic “tunk” noise scares off deer and other unwanted garden nibblers.

But the shishi-odoshi has transcended its utilitarian role and has taken on a new identity. Nowadays, you can find shishi-odoshi in gardens even when there’s no real threat of unwanted animals. The device adds soothing background noise. Some might find it annoying, but I could listen to a shishi-odoshi all day.

What I love so much about shishi-odoshi is that they provide an alternative sound to running water. It goes from a steady trickle to a sudden rush of water, followed by the characteristic hollow impact. The periodic sounds create musical rhythm and consistency, all while breaking up the empty silence of a peaceful backyard pond. You can even control how frequently the shishi-odoshi moves — a faster water flow will be more frequent and a slower water flow will be less frequent. Imagine retreating to your backyard zen pond, closing your eyes, and letting the stress of the day melt out of you as you count five shishi-odoshi impacts — one for each minute.

You may want to include a shishi-odoshi as part of your backyard aquascape merely for the sound or for the Asian aesthetic. After all, we all know how delicious Asian fusion cuisine can be, and simplistic Asian-inspired art is all the rage these days. A shishi-odoshi could provide some compelling authenticity to a Japanese-themed aquascape, all while incorporating an interesting audio element.

Keep in mind that you don’t need a garden or a pond in order to benefit from the beauty of a shishi-odoshi. You could place a self-contained shishi-odoshi just about anywhere – even inside of your home.

You could also feature a shishi-odoshi as part of your aquarium. Aquascapers often have fountain water spill over into live aquariums, so why not do the same thing with a calming shishi-odoshi? It will help make your Japanese koi feel right at home.

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